You can't judge a book by its cover but it's often a pretty good starting point for first impressions nevertheless. Well, the slightly quirky cover image for The Collected Works of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin doesn't really give a lot away so I had no idea what to expect. We see a man, surrounded by books, whose clothes are made from the pages of books, who is peering down fondly at a toddler who is reaching out to him. Books are obviously going to feature quite heavily but what else should the reader expect ? Happy families? Well, in a word, no. Not to begin with at least.
Central character A.J. Fikry is definitely an antihero and it took me a long time to warm to him. Life has certainly dealt him some hard blows - he is a young widower - but his way of dealing with things is to thrive (or not) on microwaved ready meals and drink himself to oblivion several times a week. When someone abandons a baby in the bookshop he owns, he is (unrealistically) given the chance to become her adoptive father. The baby, Maya, turns out to be his saving grace, as well as a bit of a child genius, speaking and reading remarkably well for such a small child. A.J. gets his act together and turns his life around, creating a stable home for Maya and finding true love along the way until the wheel of destiny turns again, ready to deliver another cruel dose of bad luck and tragedy.
It's an interesting book, by turns heartwarming and sad, that will make you count your blessings and think about what is really important in life. The lack of realism from time to time (AJ being given the go-ahead to be an adoptive father depite his lifestyle, Maya's precocity) made it hard for me to feel any real compassion for him, which I thought was a shame.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £12.99
- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown (13 Mar 2014)
- Language: Unknown
- ISBN-10: 1408704617
- ISBN-13: 978-1408704615
- Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 3.2 cm
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
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